|WALTER LEES AND HIS
|Walter (37y), Betty (4y), Billie (1y), Burt (3y), Loa (27y)|
After World War I, there was a serious surplus of aviators and airplanes, much more than could be absorbed by the fledgling industry. Many of the flyers left the field for greener pastures and never returned to flying. Those like Walter, who chose to stay in the field, had to get by with whatever jobs they could find. A few were able to find reasonably steady employment, but even they often had to depend on barnstorming to make ends meet. When Walter went to work in the northwest, in addition to his instructing and passenger carrying responsibilities, he had to go from town to town offering plane rides to the populace. Unlike the earlier days, when airplanes were a real novelty to most everybody, it became difficult to find enough persons who wanted to, or could afford to go for a plane ride.
Flying out of La Grande, for a while I had a mechanic. He worked for nothing, just to get experience. The company furnished a little old Ford pickup. We would load all of our equipment in the truck, including a large piece of canvas, cooking utensils & food, blankets, etc. and the mechanic would drive the truck and I'd fly the plane to the different towns. We would set up camp near the plane and sleep and cook our meals nearby to cut down on expenses.
I worked on commission, no salary. We carried very few passengers, due to a slump in wheat prices. Only a few people had enough money to buy plane rides, so I was forced to pad my expense account in order to get enough money to feed my family. I had to do some tall talking to justify the expense account to the company officers, but I managed to get by with it.
|Left to Right, Betty, Burt, Loa, Billie.||Left to Right, Loa, Burt, Billie, Betty.|
During their time in the northwest, Walter's wife Loa had their three little girls to care for, often by herself in a strange town. They could only find and only afford the most humble of houses. It was a very difficult time for all concerned.
In La Grande, Oregon, we lived in three places. First we rented a house, but the woman wanted it back right away. Next we rented rooms in a farmhouse, but that didn't last very long. Finally, we rented "the tumbledown shack." Pops was gone frequently, so when it snowed, the neighbors would shovel a path to the woodpile for me. It was really a dump with rags stuffed in the broken windows. Dad Lloyd sent us a Victrola and some beautiful records. We put it on the window seat, for lack of any other furniture. I had to dry clothes by the wood stove -- ugh.